Cheryl Bell has done something she’s always wanted to do: open an art gallery.
In a bright and airy upstairs gallery on Young Street in Halifax’s Hydrostone Market, 14 Bells showcases Canadian contemporary artists, with a primary focus on Nova Scotian artists.
All of the art is curated to Bell’s tastes and interests; she handpicked artists and did not accept submissions. Some artists are newcomers lacking full-time gallery representation, including Nova Scotian artists Tamsin Sloots, Miya Turnbull, FUZE, Sarah Irwin, and Eleni Manolakos; others are represented in galleries across Canada, like Peter John Reed, Isabel Picard and Monika Wright.
Bell says she looks for art that’s smart, engaging, and high quality. “Art is an emotional cell, so it has to engage you in some way,” she says. Striving to make the art available to everyone, she’s kept the average price at $600. “[It’s] for people who don’t necessarily think they can afford original art,” she notes, adding she wants to show new homeowners that original art should be, and can be, a part of their new home.
Her own appreciation of art stemmed from a job she had in her early 20s at Canada House Gallery in Banff, Alberta. Her interest in art never faded, even while working in retail for 20 years.
Bell moved to Halifax 11 years ago. This year, she made the decision to quit her job selling used cars, took eight months to gather the art and find a space, and on March 9 she opened 14 Bells in the historic Hydrostone district.
The name and logo for 14 Bells pays homage to the surrounding neighbourhood, and the Halifax Explosion Memorial Bell Tower in Fort Needham Park, just a stone’s throw from the gallery.
The tower has 14 bells that echo through the North End neighbourhood daily (they’re currently under renovation in time for the 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion). The site hosts the annual Halifax Explosion service every year on December 6 to commemorate the disaster. Bell says the name has no reference to her name or, coincidently, the fact that there are 14 members in her family.
Just weeks after its opening, the gallery has given Bell piece of mind. “A mandate for me personally is to create a job I want to come to every day, which I have done,” she says.